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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what
many are calling New York City's most significant campaign
season in modern history.
What is so significant about it?
the first time in memory, most political offices in the city
will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.
Why will the races be so open?
are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that
limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing
the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including
the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the
five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City
Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks
in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions
to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar
What does this have to do with this site?
a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate
page for each race, including all the races for City Council,
that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new
and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn
about the issues, and the districts themselves.
Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit,
non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about
New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens
Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government
group in the city (founded in 1897).
What's wrong with the way the regular press
covers the races?
is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign
Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct
summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial
Who are we?
A Vision for Parks?
By Anne Schwartz
America's great park systems, like those in Minneapolis
or Portland, Oregon, did not happen by accident. These
cities have had elected officials and civic leaders who
strongly believe that parks are an essential part of a
city's vitality. They see well-maintained parks and greenways,
protected natural areas, and good recreational facilities
as among the most important contributors to a city's quality
of life, and therefore to a healthy economy.
In the nineteenth century, New York was in the forefront
of the movement to create city parks. Cities all over
the country wanted their own version of Central and Prospect
parks, which still stand as landscape masterpieces. The
next great park-building wave came during the era of Robert
Moses. In recent decades, however, city political leaders
have considered parks a low priority. Municipal funding
for parks has waned, and the reigning philosophy has it
that parks should be supported as much as possible by
the private sector or by fees charged for concessions
or special uses. (And most of those fees go to the general
government coffers, rather than being specifically earmarked
for parks.) Creating and tending parks has been considered
neither an essential public service nor an impetus for
economic development, an investment in a city's infrastructure
that is ultimately repaid many times over. So perhaps
the underlying parks issue for the mayoral campaign is:
Do any of the candidates have a real vision for what parks
can do to make a better New York?
PARKS AND THE BUDGET
The most pressing issue that parks advocates want candidates
to address is funding. Budget allocations for maintaining
parks and running recreation programs have been shrinking
for the better part of two decades. Parks operating funds
now amount to less than one half of one percent of the
total city budget. The parks department has 60 percent
fewer fulltime employees than it did 15 years ago. That
means that parks that rely solely on city funding - that
is, the ones in poorer neighborhoods that (unlike Central
Park) cannot raise money from private individuals and
companies - have little or no staff to care for plantings,
maintain ball fields, run recreation programs, or keep
the bathrooms clean. The lack of funds has hit recreation
programs the hardest. New York City spends the least amount
per capita on recreation of any major city in the United
States, resulting in a shortage of playing fields, tennis
courts, pools, and other recreational facilities and programs.
Parks advocacy groups want candidates to make a commitment
to reversing this trend. They have organized a campaign
calling for doubling the city's spending on park operations
to one percent of the budget. That would allow the city
to hire enough gardeners, tree pruners, plumbers, and
electricians to maintain the plantings and facilities
in the parks; it would also provide for the return of
the parkies, the neighborhood-based employees who maintained
and monitored their parks and ran recreation programs.
Additional operating funds would allow the parks department
to end its practice of using capital money for restoring
parks and structures that have fallen into disrepair because
of neglected maintenance. Capital funds could be spent
instead on reclaiming abandoned parkland and creating
new green and recreational space in underserved parts
of the city.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR OPEN SPACE
While candidates are called upon to address the shortage
of affordable housing, especially in the city's poor,
heavily minority districts, those very same neighborhoods
tend to have the fewest and most poorly maintained parks.
It is estimated that 69 percent of the city's Community
Planning Districts do not even meet the city's very modest
open space standard of 2.5 acres per thousand residents.
Often, the only green places are the community gardens
created by the residents on vacant city-owned lots. In
addition to addressing the community garden issue (see
below), parks advocates want candidates to be thinking
in terms of neighborhood-based planning that includes
recreational and green space along with new affordable
housing. A recent study of District 3 in the Bronx, by
the Design Trust for Public Space, addressed this issue
in depth. Other opportunities exist for creating open
space in these areas on former industrial sites (brownfields),
small lots, and the waterfront (see below).
FAIR SHARE OF STATE FUNDING
City elected officials could also be lobbying much more
actively to direct state open space funding to the inner
city. New York City has not received its fair share of
state Bond Act and other funds for open space acquisition,
and the little money it has received has been concentrated
in Staten Island, which has far more open space than the
other boroughs. The New
York City Environmental Justice Alliance is developing
a proposal, called "Green Cities," for the creation of
a state environmental investment program for urban areas.
Two years ago, in a bizarre twist on the land trust concept,
private groups ended up buying public land to prevent
the city from auctioning off more than 100 community gardens
to private developers. While cities all over the country
are promoting the development of community gardens, New
York City's remaining 600 or so gardens are in limbo.
An injunction resulting from a lawsuit by state Attorney
General Elliot Spitzer has stopped the city from tearing
down gardens, but the city continues to go through the
process of selling lots, stopping short of actual development.
The stalemate will most likely be left for the next mayor
and city council to resolve. A year ago,
legislation was introduced in the city council that
would establish a process for reviewing proposed sales
of community gardens and for preserving gardens and creating
new ones. It has languished because of lack of support
from many council members as well as the City Council
Speaker, Peter Vallone, who is running for mayor.
The decaying industrial waterfront offers the best opportunity
for new parks and open space in the city, especially in
many low-income neighborhoods that lack parks. Revitalizing
the waterfront would connect New Yorkers to the city's
greatest natural resource, the harbor, with its spectacular
views and opportunities for aquatic recreation. There
is a lot of momentum right now, with large parks taking
shape along the West Side of Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn,
as well as smaller parks being created in Harlem, Hunts
Point, and elsewhere. The Waterfront
Park Coalition has developed a comprehensive inventory
of 150 potential sites, and is working with local groups
to make the parks a reality. What sort of vision do the
candidates have for the waterfront and how it fits into
the New York City of the 21st century? Among the issues
that need to be addressed: access to the water; community
involvement in waterfront planning; and how much commercial
development is appropriate.
Few people know that New York City has an official greenway
plan to create 350 miles of trails for walking and biking.
The Department of City Planning created
the plan in 1993, incorporating proposals for a Brooklyn/Queens
greenway by the Neighborhood
Open Space Coalition and a Bronx greenway by Bronx
Borough President Fernando Ferrer. The city has received
more than $60 million in federal funding so far for this
program, under the ISTEA and TEA-21 legislation that seeks
to promote alternative modes of transportation. The program
requires only 20 percent in state or city matching funds,
a great opportunity in an era of scarce money for green
space and recreation, and one that city elected officials
should be pursuing more vigorously. The state recently
committed $11 million for a section of the Bronx River
Greenway, which is envisioned to run continuously from
Wards Island to the Westchester border. The plan includes
restoring land and creating access to the river for the
community. At present, New York City has about 70 miles
of existing greenway routes, 25 miles under construction,
and 80 more miles planned. What would candidates do to
speed up the implementation of the greenway plan?
THE URBAN FOREST
It is delightful to walk down a city street with a canopy
of large trees (and perhaps more delightful to live on
such a street!) Trees contribute significantly to the
quality of life in the city. They provide shade, cool
the air and reduce energy use in the summer, filter pollutants,
slow runoff, and screen out noise and ugly views. Studies
at housing projects in Chicago have even shown a correlation
between the presence of trees and fewer incidents of violence.
Trees and other plantings have also been shown to increase
commercial and residential property values.
Yet New York City's elected officials have given even
less thought to trees than to parks. The city's urban
forest, which includes trees along streets and highways
as well as in parks and natural areas, has been neglected,
according to Keeping the Green Promise, a 1998 report
by the Environmental
Action Coalition and the Regional
Plan Association. New York City has less "canopy cover"
(the area shaded by trees) than most similar cities. Not
surprisingly, trees are particularly scarce in the same
low-income, minority neighborhoods that have a shortage
of parks. Advocates want candidates to address the need
to expand the urban forest in these areas. Also at issue
is better management of the existing street, highway,
and park trees through better planting techniques and
more frequent inspection and pruning. Urban forestry advocates
want the city to fulfill an unkept promise to continue
a program to restore urban woodlands that was begun with
private philanthropic funding. Elected officials could
also be doing more to obtain state funding for the city's
forestry needs. Last year, after intensive lobbying by
city environmental groups, the state allocated money to
urban forestry for the first time.
Last year, the city and state agreed on a plan to turn
the 173-acre former Coast Guard base into a new civic
space, which would include a conference center, educational
facilities, and parkland. The plan had wide support. But
with the failure to get legislation passed during the
Clinton Administration to transfer the island to New York
State at no cost, the fate of Governors Island is still
up in the air. Part of the island, including two historic
forts and the surrounding land, was declared a national
monument in an executive order issued by President Clinton
in his last week in office, and President Bush is expected
to let the order stand. The federal government is now
moving ahead to sell the rest of the island at fair market
value by the end of the year. New legislation to transfer
the island to the state will be introduced; the state
could also negotiate a deal with the General Services
Administration, which is handling the sale. But before
turning the land over to the state, the federal government
needs a binding commitment from the state and city to
the plan they created. Whoever is elected mayor could
make a difference in whether or not Governors Island becomes
a new public space. What are the positions of the mayoral
candidates on the concept plan announced last year? If
elected, would they support placing restrictions on the
island in keeping with that plan, either through state
legislation or city zoning? And, would they support capital
investment to create public spaces on the island?
What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive
look at what is being called New York City's most significant
campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column
for an explanation).
Districts of the Week
1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant
Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living
in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping
to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man,
the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar,
the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically
well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will
play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the
main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on
the council. The key question is how many voters from each
community will come out on Election Day.
7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular
places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of
Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home.
The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also
from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia.
But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students,
artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive
rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic
candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on
primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of
candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers
with those who have lived there for years.
16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with
the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household
income. But those who live there also point out that much
is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part
to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses
of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each
candidate for City Council believes that through his or her
connections to churches and local organizations, they can
help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster,
the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin,
who has worked as an aide to several government officials
and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.
20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever
to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest
number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There
are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have
each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone
endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed
John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen
The campaign has also drawn national and international press
25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of
the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly
blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American
food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and
Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills
the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise
that this election year the district produced a diverse field
of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting
on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens
Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge
petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will
face off on September 11.
31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in
neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale
head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been
that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing
in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the
need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually
build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized
and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times
in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little
experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will
try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding
35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest
incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play
in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live
in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend
one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district,
and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions
are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn
Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical
Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect
Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria,
and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews
and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning
in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention,
to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods
39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for
an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress,
a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president
of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary
Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community
Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch
this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised
a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.
45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance
reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush.
The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this
largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean
nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and
serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win
their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with
that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But
this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could
be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting
to come up with anything that will separate them from the
49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild
to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why
they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting
friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many
ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan
and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The
top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an
administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon,
an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan,
and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island
and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island
politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than
just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists
who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.
for Party Affiliation
Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)
1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance
program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties
(Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal,
Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate
petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect
the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district
for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary
ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties
do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate
set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to
circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in
the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures
equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates
appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register
to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates
to file petitions to be included on the General Election
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for
absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application
for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark
absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m.
and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered
by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor,
Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters
to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for
absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application
for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for
the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m.
and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered
by 9:00 p.m.